22 smart ways to enhance efficiency in business

October 22, 2020

Improve efficiency in business

Efficiency in business is something managers should constantly work on improving. The most tedious tasks can sometimes be the greatest cause of the lack of efficiency in business. Failing to notice stagnation or even regress ultimately leads to decrease in profits. And no business owner wants that.

There are many ways to improve business efficiency. Not all will work for your company. The first thing you should do is detect the issues and then apply the solutions.

Jump directly to:

 1. Digital tools for predicting demand 

 2. Clear core elements in meetings

 3. Motivate your employees

 4. Meetings with an agenda  

 5. Implement self-pay kiosks

 6. Seek expert advice

 7. Adopt the OKR methodology

 8. Structure the problem-solving process

 9. Move meetings online

 10. Use Google Workspace

 11. Outsource whenever possible

 12. Set realistic targets

 13. Invest in top-shelf tools

 14. Automate the contract workflow

 15. Automate every possible task

 16. Practice the Pomodoro Technique

 17. Switch to an industry-specific CRM

 18. Measure, measure, measure

 19. Optimise your product portfolio

 20. Map the workflow

 21. Keep your documents in a cloud

 22. Teach team members to self-manage

Improving efficiency in business in 22 different ways

We asked business owners and managers to share how they’ve increased efficiency in business. The following list consists of actionable and practical tips that you could implement in your firm.

Use digital tools to predict product demand

The planning teams at many businesses still rely on ad hoc Excel workbooks to forecast demand for their products. This error-prone process frequently results in an inaccurate estimate of demand, resulting in excess inventory that will eventually need to be discarded. 

There exist a number of tools that allow the planning team to incorporate real-time demand sensing data into their inventory planning. For example, businesses may incorporate real-time data from website traffic and search engine queries to better predict future demand for their products. By using digital tools to modernize their forecasting process, businesses can dramatically reduce the amount of unsold inventory thus improve business efficiency.

Bryce Bowman, Founder of People First Planning

Clarify the core elements of your meetings

To increase efficiency in business you have to make meetings run more efficiently and effectively. To do this, you have four major levers at your disposal. As you look through your list of meetings, ask yourself questions about each of those levers:

  1. Number (the number of meetings you run): Do we really need this meeting (or could it be run on an ad-hoc basis, only if required?)
  2. Frequency (the cadence that each meeting occurs): Do we need to run the meeting as often as we do?
  3. Duration (the amount of time each meeting takes): Does the meeting need to run as long as it does?
  4. People (the number of team members needed to attend each meeting): Who do we actually need to attend the meeting? (with the ability to bring in non-core individuals on an as-needs basis)

Evian Gutman, Founder & CEO of Ringcommend

Motivate your employees

The best way to improve business efficiency is to motivate employees to want to work. By creating a pleasant work environment, and by providing motivation and proper guidance, you make your workers want to please you, rather than making them feel forced to. Force is not a good motivator – aspiration is. 

Let your employees know what you need from them, set them up for success, and provide encouragement and praise when they reach their set-up goals. Us humans are receptive to the feeling of accomplishment by default, which is why recognizing someone’s effort and hard work can trigger a significant improvement when it comes to business efficiency.

Janni Nilsson, Managing Editor at Resumoo

Have meetings with an agenda and a clear direction

Without getting into the nitty-gritty of things in the company, you won’t be able to pinpoint the spots where things could be improved. However, meetings are not just all about status report and project developments. They don’t have to be long either. You don’t want to lose your team’s attention and ability to think creatively.

There are two keys to having efficient meetings: having an agenda at the start and having actionable steps at the end. A meeting is useless without an agenda. You have to have points of discussion ready, so you’re not wasting time on topics that can easily be communicated through chat or email.

At the end of the meeting, actionable steps must be set in place so your team knows what to do right after the meeting is done. Many people leave meetings with no clear direction in mind, so it’s crucial for you to set these things so tasks can be done more efficiently and deadlines could be met.

Bradley Keys, Marketing Director at PatchMD 

Implement self-pay kiosks

If your brick and mortar business involves B2C sales, the least you could do to improve business efficiency is to install self-pay kiosks. 

Impulsify’s self-pay kiosk technology is designed to automate purchases and provide a faster checkout procedure for retail outlets, while also providing minimal cashier interaction, and avoiding cross-contamination. With multiple kiosks for guests to scan-and-go with minimal interaction, no cash and no touching of customer’s food provides reduced cross-contamination. This will result in increased sales and returning customers.

Janine Williams, CEO of Impulsify Inc

Seek expert advice

Businesses start with passion. Then, they grow and become an operation. It is at this stage that business owners lose control and efficiency in business decreases. We grew from 2 founders to 12 employees quickly and completely lost control of our processes. We delivered more work but made less profit. In fact, we were chasing our tails and were completely wild. Why? Because we had zero understanding of how to manage a business that had transformed from a passion into an operation.

Today, we manage 28% more clients with the same workforce and revolutionised processes. By contracting an external expert, they were able to objectively look at our business from angles we could not see while being so heavily invested. We learned that the best business owners understand when to get their hands dirty and when to concede to an expert. Now, we heed this experience for other areas of our business.

Steven Lord, Marketing Manager at Digital Next

Adopt the OKR methodology

One way to improve business efficiency is to adopt the OKR methodology (Objectives and Key Results). A collaborative approach to goals fosters transparency and visibility, helps organizations stay aligned, and improves overall efficiency and productivity.

With the major shift to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re seeing an increase in companies implementing surveillance and tracking software, believing that it would improve team productivity and efficiency while everyone was working from home. But ramping up the use of software to monitor what your employees do all day isn’t the answer. There have been

multiple studies that extrinsic motivation isn’t effective for knowledge workers. Employee surveillance and micromanaging software incite fear that employees aren’t being productive, adding additional pressure and destroying morale across the team. Digital supervision not only removes privacy, but it breaks the trust built between managers and employees.

Enter OKRs. They help to focus and align the organization, as well as develop a set of productive behaviors that will create an intrinsically motivated culture. Through the OKR process, employees define the outcomes they’ll achieve, which empowers autonomy and ultimately motivation.

Alicia Hunt, Director of Marketing at Koan

Structure the problem-solving process

Sometimes you have to slow down in order to make sure you are solving the right problems that will achieve big goals more quickly. A structured problem-solving process can help you know what needs to change and ensure your efforts are moving you in the right direction. 

At Cardsmith, we involve our entire team, and use our own visual tool to follow a step-by-step problem-solving process which helps us boost efficiency in business:

 

  1. Brainstorm all the problems. 
  2. Estimate what value would be realized if we solved each problem. 
  3. Brainstorm solutions and estimate the cost to solving each problem. 
  4. Look at the problems and solutions holistically to find synergies and possible shared root causes. 
  5. Combine and rank possible projects. 
  6. Select projects to execute, making sure to capture baseline metrics. 
  7. Execute on the highest priority projects. 
  8. Measure the results of the change by evaluating changes in the identified metrics.

Monica Borrell, Founder and CEO of Cardsmith

Move meetings online

Our company has found that the best way we can improve business efficiency is by moving meetings online.

Webinars have become a part of our daily routine. It is an effective way to communicate with customers, potential customers, website visitors, or other interested parties. You can also host internal webinars for employees instead of seminars. A webinar can include everything a regular seminar includes: lectures, conversations, debates, and workshops.

From my experience, if a regular meeting is supposed to take an hour, it will take two hours, and even more for the host. Another upside is that travel time for participants is reduced, better yet nonexisting. With online meetings, you simply click a link and you’re there.

Kristian Rasmusse, CEO & Founder at Ultify

Use Google Workspace a.k.a. G Suite

Using G Suite has been a game-changer for our business. It means multiple contributors can work on our campaign documents at the same time without things getting lost as had happened with previous cloud solutions. Tasks, internal discussions, calendars, everything we need is accessible within one or two platforms which is perfect. 

Over time we refined our processes and identified any double handling that was happening and continue to streamline and automate as much as possible so that our team can truly focus on being creative. The fewer people have to jump between conflicting tasks, the more efficient they are because they aren’t as mentally fatigued.

Natalie Athanasiadis, Founder of Ormi Media

Outsource the things you dislike doing

For years now, and even in these uncertain times, I have exceeded my business goals. The best expert tip I can give that has helped me succeed is outsourcing the parts of my business that I don’t love or am not an expert at. So my best advice is not to be afraid to invest in contractors with highly specialized skill sets. 

This goes for any part of the business that you and your team don’t have the expertise, is project-based, or does not warrant hiring full-time staff. Hiring the right people for the right job is essential for growth. Just make sure that you do your due diligence with verified referrals or reviews of the services offered.

Jessica Randhawa, Owner and Head Chef at The Forked Spoon 

Set realistic targets

When the bulk of our employees are working from home, it is difficult to monitor them or micromanage them in any way. Instead, we would set certain realistic targets for them to achieve every week. We are flexible on when they do their work (they do not have to work 9-5), so long as they are able to meet their weekly targets. 

Such flexibility also helps to keep our employees happy and ultimately increase our efficiency in business.

Kim Chan, Founder and CEO of DocPro

Invest in top-shelf tools

Investing in tools like Sprout Social, for social media marketing, HubSpot, for marketing automation and sales enablement, and DataBox, for data visualization & unified KPI tracking, has enabled us to streamline the most time consuming and repetitive tasks while also maximizing the scope and value of services we can provide clients. 

Some of these tools have allowed us to condense tasks that would take multiple days into an SOP that takes mere hours monthly. In our experience, many business owners we consult with

initially shy away from top-tier tools because of their larger price-tag, but once they understand the time-savings coupled with the value of their own time as an owner or manager, they demonstrate complete buy-in. 

Our best advice to improve business efficiency is to make the investment in top-shelf tools for your tasks, and dedicate the time to integrate them into your daily workflow and company SOPs.

Connor Whitman, Founder of Connor Whitman Digital Strategy Consulting

Productivity tools from Enterprise League

Automate the contract workflow

Contracts are the lifeblood of any business. Still, contracts are done manually with old-school tools like MS Word and email. With this, teams like HR, sales, procurement are dependent on the legal team and not able to run their business operations efficiently to close deals and mitigate risks at the same time.

One advice for boosting business efficiency is automating the contract workflow. Every business can automate the most frequently used document templates and delegate them to other business units to self-serve and be confident in the documents’ compliance. To speed up the workflow even more, further contract negotiation can be done from the same place so contract parties should not jump to emails and upload/ download documents many times. The parties also stay in this one-window environment to get contracts digitally signed.

With this new way of contracting, business teams are totally independent and equipped with necessary documents to get deals closed whereas lawyers on more high-value legal advisory.

Polina Medvedieva, Marketing Manager at Avokaado

Don’t be afraid to automate every possible task

Automation is your best bet to improve business efficiency. Automating specific tasks not only reduces the burden, but it brings efficiency in the organization. We use automation for mundane tasks such as status reporting, employee tracking, task distribution, etc. We are also going for predictive analysis to make our systems smarter. We are trying to be future-ready by incorporating predictive analytics to solve problems proactively.

Kamal Thakur, COO of Cerebrum Infotech

Practice the Pomodoro Technique

With most businesses now shifting to remote work at home, there is a high risk of working inefficiently due to lethargy from sitting too long in front of a desk. I noticed this when some of the team’s assignments got delayed by a few days.

To make the long story short, we implemented the classic Pomodoro Technique. Every 30 mins to an hour, they have to get up from their chairs and do whatever they want for 5 mins – stretching or making coffee is up to them. This helped the team revive their spirits and were able to do their jobs more efficiently.

Stewart Dunlop, Founder of LinkBuilder.io

Switch to an industry-specific CRM

We had used the same CRM software since we began and we liked it and were very reluctant to change. However, I knew we had some efficiency problems with:

  • getting a hold of sales leads quickly 
  • following up on leads consistently and 
  • making our salespeople more productive. 

I had a hunch that making a change in our CRM software would make a big difference. I found CRM software called Velocify that specialized in our industry and we decided to make a switch. It had an immediate impact on our sales and hasn’t stopped since. Our sales and close ratio improved over 50% instantly and I know it was directly attributed to the new CRM software.

Stephen Halasnik, Managing Partner at Financing Solutions 

Measure, measure, measure

You can’t manage what you can’t measure. We are a service business, understanding the time required for repeatable tasks is essential for productivity and profitability. We implemented a mandatory protocol for our project management system, a series of digital tools that allow us to accurately associate time with repeatable tasks. We calculated the average time spent on 92 repeatable tasks, created operational processes and training modules for each.

This implementation has allowed our team to very accurately estimate project costs, maintain profitability, and instil detailed expectation outlines for our staff. As an added benefit, the operational procedure training modules allow us to quickly onboard new team members.

Matt Berman, Founder and CEO of Emerald Digital

Optimise your product portfolio

Keep your product portfolio optimal. It’s one of those cases when more doesn’t always equal better. One of our clients has been in e-commerce for more than ten years. During this time, he was continually adding new products to his portfolio. After making a careful analysis, we suggested that he delist 70% of his products. As an outcome, organic traffic dropped by 10%; the conversion rate doubled, and the revenue grew by 20%. Moreover, he now has a lean portfolio, which is easier to manage logistic-wise. With this cleanup, he now earns more by working less.

Illia Termeno, Founder of CMO Consultant

Map the workflow

It may sound basic or tedious, but it is the single most effective way to increase efficiency in business exponentially. This is the foundation to evaluate what you and your team are doing from initial client intake or product idea through final completion.  

Mapping workflow allows the business owner and team to think through their business process and identify tasks that are duplicative, actions that can be automated, and potential for collaboration across business silos. I’ve done this in my own businesses and work with my startup and small business clients to do the same. 

Moreover, mapping workflow is the gateway to developing operations or training manuals that save time and provide clarity when hiring additional employees. This is also the basis to create templates for various business functions that promote consistent communication and quality of service. 

Alexandra Cohen, Founder of ANC Consult

Keep your documents in a cloud

Keep all your office documents in the cloud, and not on your local computers and laptops (I’m still surprised to see how many businesses still email each other files!). Switch to a cloud solution such as Google Workspace (previously known as G Suite / Google Apps) or Microsoft Office 365. This helps your employees access important documents 24/7 and work on business tasks without waiting to gain access or approval.

The boosts to business efficiency across the board are huge:

  • Employees always have access to the latest, freshest version of any document
  • Employees can collaborate on documents in real-time and finish tough tasks together
  • It’s easy to grant/deny access to business documentation if a person joins/leaves the company
  • Having everything in the cloud takes the workload off the business owner/CEO
  • There’s almost no way to lose a document

Visnja Zeljeznjak, Website Consultant and Digital Marketing Specialist at Logit Internet Services Ltd

Teach team members to self-manage

The best single thing to improve business efficiency is to remove unnecessary micromanagement tasks. We’ve found that investing in training is always right. In this case, I’m talking about teaching team members to self-manage some of their work. Encouraging peer reviews and daily standup meetings will remove many unnecessary tasks from project managers and leaders.

This philosophy will also impact team members’ self-motivation and, consequently, their productivity. When a skilled worker learns to self-manage his assigned tasks, it will reduce communication timing and avoid possible management bottlenecks.

Jose Gomez, CTO and Founder of Evinex

Conclusion

The increase in efficiency in business more often than not has a direct impact on decreasing operating costs, boosting productivity and generating more profits. It’s up to the managers to identify where business efficiency is leaking from, and close the hole.

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